Packing Tip: How to Pack a Guidebook, bit by bit

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Last Updated on June 16, 2011 by Christine Kaaloa

lonely planet guidebooksPacking Tip: How to Pack a Guidebook bit by bit


Digital times has reduced the power of paper; yet, my eyes don’t enjoy the constant absorption of LED light from computer screens and handhelds. E-books? PDF guides? No. I want paper when I travel… I want my guidebook!

But how to I travel light with it?  Some guidebooks are absolutely behemoth and as a backpacker, I often resent being a sherpa.

My backpack doesn’t need to feel 5 kilos (the weight of my India book) heavier when I’m referring to it only 1/6th of the time I’m traveling. Albeit, that 1/6th is usually an emergency… So here’s a giant packing tip for you that won’t add too much weight.

Packing Tip: How to Pack a Guidebook bit by bit

Here’s two of my biggest travel guidebook secrets–

1) Dice it down

I don’t take the whole book… I tear out and make chapters of it!

Basically, if I have an idea of the places I want to visit, I section those off and discard all the excess pages that I don’t need. After I’m done with a particular place, I toss the chapter out. I remember to take extra paper clips with me to hold my chapters together. These self-made chapters are also perfect for sliding into a day pack or purse!

lonely planet southeast asia guidebookLonely Planet Southeast Asia: On a Shoestringirtgt0d8 20amplam2ampo1ampa1741792339ampcamp217145ampcreative3993691

It’s a fattie, isn’t it?.. Until you chop it down to the actual countries you’re going to.

lonely planet guidebookThose two clipped pamphlets were all I took for my recent 2.5 week trip to Thailand and Laos!

If you think that’s insane– wait until you see how I massacred my Lonely Planet Indiabuy lonely planet india guidebook guidebook.

lonely planet india guidebook
Another fattie of a book!

lonely planet bit tips

 I was traveling India for three months:

1) I cut out the destinations I know I wouldn’t go to.
2) After visiting a city, I pluck out the pages and chuck the chapters I’m done with!

It was still weight in my bag, but I was able to unload it piece by piece!


2) Buying and reselling used and pirated guidebooks

Guidebooks aren’t difficult to find when traveling, especially if you’re staying in backpacker areas. Lonely Planet, Rough Guides,… book dealers and used book stores selling travel guides seem to be available where ever there are tourists.

Also, Asia is a crafty when it comes to selling recycled and ‘knock-off’ books. I  love them for that reason. It makes it economical for everyone.

In Nepal, I bought newly-minted Lonely Planet book offered at half the cost of the U.S. price. I got it in a new/used bookstore, which bought back guidebooks. It came in a plastic wrap, but upon closer notice, I found it was a newly-minted Xeroxed version!  The information was the same as its original, so I didn’t mind and I ended up keeping it as a coffee table souvenir of Nepal– my first Lonely Planet knock-off! But ordinarily, knock-off books are perfect to destroy as I mentioned earlier.

Other times, I love going to used book sellers and buying a book with highlights and dog-earred pages at a third of the cost of the original. Why? Someone else’s highlighted markings, show me that they’ve already done the research work for me!

How do I lighten my load? At the end of the trip, if my book is still in tact, I sell it back to the used bookshop dealer!


Do you use guidebooks when you travel?  How do you travel light? What are packing tips you’ve devised to create a lighter load for travel? Would you pack a guidebook bit by bit?


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  • […] It’s admirable that you type parts of your guidebook out, but here’s a tip if you ever need to save time and packing space: “Packing your guidebook bit by bit“ […]

  • If you slip a saw between the pages while the book is closed, you can saw directly through the spine, thus preserving the glue holding the pages together. Then, if you put packing tape along each of the edges of the first page and the last page, plus the spine, it will be indestructible. It’ll last as long as you need it, and you can give it away as a present when you leave.

  • I did the same thing for Paris, Madrid and Barcelona, Christine. I was damned if I was going to bring the entire Rick Steves’ Europe just for a city or two. It’s so much easier. I don’t feel guilty “defacing” the book, because it’s just going to be outdated in a couple of years anyway.

  • Laura in Cancun
    June 18, 2011 2:32 am

    That’s GENIUS!!!!

  • I did half-and-half with my New Zealand guide book at first. North-South island. I really was not a fan of tearing books down, so my heart was aching while I was doing that. But, practically, I have to. I’m not in everywhere at the same time, so that made sense.
    And hurray for highlights and post its! 🙂

  • I’ve tried a few things – tearing out pages, taking photocopies, using the PDFs but in the end, I want the entire book so I just suck it up and carry them!

    The India one was definitely a nightmare though (and so was China, which is similarly sized). At one point I was carrying the India LP, Nepal, four novels and my journals. It was…a little excessive and at one point I had to hike for twenty minutes, scrabbling up a huge hill. Pretty much broke my back. But I kept them all! Crazy huh.

    • @Megan: I give you hoots, lady! Sherpa-ing all those bricks in your bag is intense but it sounds like you’re sentimental.I can see it being hard to part with the guidebooks after having been through so much with them.

      @Juno: Glad to hear there are other “guidebook-defacers” out there. I feel the same- there’s something that always feels a bit “wrong” with tearing a book. But hey– travel survival. ha ha… I’m a BIG fan of colored tab post-its!

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